Roasted Eggplant Potato Soup

2 medium eggplants
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 small potatoes, peeled and diced into 1/2 inch cubes
1 small onion, finely diced
1 qt vegetable or low-sodium chicken broth
2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
1/2 tsp pepper
1 cup light cream (optional)

Preheat oven to 350. Pierce skins of eggplants with a fork and lay them on a baking sheet. Bake for about an hour, until soft. Cut open and let cool for 10 minutes. Scrape flesh out into food processor bowl; discard skins.

Meanwhile, stir-fry oil, garlic, potatoes, and onion 15-20 minutes until potatoes are soft. Add potato mixture to food processor bowl, along with broth, and puree.

Pour mixture into a large saucepan. Season with parsley and pepper. Add cream if desired. Simmer 5 minutes until heated through.

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Three Musketeers Cheesecake

Chocolate Cookie Crust

  • 12 chocolate sandwich cream cookies
  • 3 Tbsp butter, melted

Crush cookies or spin them in a food processor until crumbly. Stir together with melted butter and press evenly into the bottom of a greased 9″ springform pan.

Milk Chocolate Filling

  • 3-8 oz packages cream cheese
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup sour cream
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 1/4 tsp vanilla
  • 12 oz milk chocolate chips (plus extra for garnish)

Before beginning, set cream cheese and eggs on counter to come to room temperature. If you are in a hurry, set the cream cheese in a 200 degree oven for 10 minutes and set the eggs in a bowl of warm water for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, melt chocolate chips in microwave by heating for 30 seconds on high, stirring, then heating for 30 seconds again.

Preheat oven to 350. In a large bowl combine cream cheese, sugar, and sour cream. Beat with an electric mixer until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time, making sure to incorporate each one before adding the next. Be careful, though, too much beating will result in a cracked cake. Add vanilla and melted chocolate, stir to combine.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Without opening the oven, lower the temperature to 200 degrees and allow the cake to continue baking for another 75 to 90 minutes. You will know it is time when the center loses its wet or shiny appearance.

Take the cake out, run a knife around the inside edge of the pan, and put the cake back in the oven. Turn the oven off and let the cake sit in the oven for 2-4 more hours to finish cooking while it slooooowly cools.

Refrigerate, uncovered, several hours to overnight. Consider slicing the entire cake into 12-18 slices before adding the topping. I slice with dental floss, or you may use a hot, dry knife.

Top with dollops of whipped cream and sprinkled milk chocolate chips.

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Happy Meal Birthday

No, I did not write that backwards.

If you took your kids to McDonald’s today, as I did, you need to see this post. If you have taken them to McDonald’s in the last year, as I have half a dozen times, you will still find it relevant.

Happy Meal Birthday

Not sure if I should say, “Enjoy”?

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Green Chile Corn Cake

I’m a big fan of my tried-and-true “Jimmy Crack” Corn Cake. So are a lot of people I cook for. So why publish another corn cake recipe? It’s the same basic recipe at its core, but I was intrigued by the addition of cheeses and green chiles. The poblano also adds a layer of smoky interest. I now use this for “extra special” corn cake, for a little variety.

  • 1/4 cup butter

  • 1 cup onion, finely chopped
  • 1 poblano pepper, finely chopped
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 bag (12 oz.) frozen corn
  • 1 can (15 ounces) cream corn
  • 3 cans (4 oz each) diced green chiles
  • 1 cup shredded shar Cheddar cheese, divided
  • 1 cup shredded pepper jack cheese, divided
  • 1 pkg (9 oz) corn muffin mix (I use Jiffy)

Melt butter in saucepan over medium-low heat. Add onion, poblano and salt and sweat until onion is soft and translucent, but not browned. Add garlic and cook for another 2-3 minutes. Set aside and let cool to room temperature.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, combine onion mixture, sour cream, egg, corn, green chiles and 1/2 cup of each cheese. Add corn muffin mix and stir until moistened.

Pour mixture into greased 2.5 quart baking dish. Bake for 45 minutes. Remove from oven, top with remaining cheese, then return to oven for another 15 minutes, or until top is well browned.

Serves a crowd.

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Key Lime Cheesecake

Cookie Crust:

  • ¾ cup flour
  • 2 ½ Tbsp sugar
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • ¼ cup softened margarine
  • ½ tsp vanilla

In a medium bowl stir together flour and sugar. Add egg, butter, and vanilla. Beat until well combined. Carefully press dough evenly into the bottom of a greased 9-inch springform pan.

Bake at 350 for 12-15 minutes, until lightly browned. Remove from oven and set aside.

Key Lime Filling:

  • 24 ounces cream cheese
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 5 Tbsp sour cream
  • 5 tsp flour
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 egg yolk
  • ½ cup frozen limeade concentrate, thawed
  • ¼ cup lime juice
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • green food coloring (optional)

In a large bowl combine cream cheese, sugar, sour cream, and flour. Beat with an electric mixer till smooth. Add eggs and egg yolk, one at time, beating well after each addition. Beat in limeade concentrate, lime juice, and vanilla extract. Stir in green food coloring, if desired. Pour the cream cheese mixture over the crust.

Bake at 350 for 15 minutes. Lower the temperature to 200 and bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes, or until the center no longer looks wet or shiny. Remove the cake from the oven and run a knife around the inside edge of the pan.

Honey Lime Glaze:

  • ½ cup frozen limeade concentrate, thawed
  • 4 tsp lime juice
  • 1 Tbsp cornstarch
  • 1 Tbsp honey
  • 1 tsp finely shredded lime peel
  • Fresh lime slices

In a small saucepan stir together limeade concentrate, lime juice, cornstarch, honey, and lime peel. Cook and stir till thickened and bubbly. Cook and stir 2 minutes more. Pour over cheesecake. Garnish with lime slices. Chill till serving time. Makes 12 to 18 slices.

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The Right Start: Part Two

This is the second part of a post from last week. For best continuity, read Part One first, then come here!

How Do I Train the Kids?
Moms can help their kids learn to make good breakfast choices in two ways. The first is to offer good options, by only bringing “good choice” food home from the store. Just a few alterations can make breakfast a whole lot healthier for the whole family. Change one item a month for a few months, and they will have gradually re-educated their taste buds.

Choose cereals with higher fiber, such as Raisin Bran, Shredded Wheat, and Multi-Grain Cheerios. Switch from flavored to plain yogurt, and stock up on frozen fruit to stir in. Begin to serve less juice, but make sure it is 100% juice with no sugar added, then dilute it about 20% with water. Develop the habit of only buying whole-grain bread. One final trick is to invest in some wheat germ and/or ground flaxseed, and stir it into all kinds of things from muffin mix to yogurt to oatmeal.

The second way moms influence their kids is to lead by example. When moms eat right, the kids learn to distinguish good from poor choices. This can be a challenge for those of us still loving the fact that we are on our own and have the freedom to choose! But it is so important, given our role in setting our kids up for long-term success.

More than Good Food
Choosing a smart start in the morning includes one other element. All of the child-rearing good we do is useless if we fail to teach our kids the importance of looking to God at the beginning of each day. Psalm 5:3 says, “In the morning, O Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation” (NIV). Again, we start by setting the example of doing so ourselves: Take a moment to invite God to be part of your morning before even getting out of bed; allow ten minutes to read God’s Word before getting the kids up.

Then, help them do the same. As you greet the kids, sit down together for a moment to ask God to be part of their day. Some parents even wake their kids early enough that the kids can do their own quiet time before getting ready for school. It is so simple, yet all it takes is just a little planning ahead. And the rewards will continue for years.

Sometimes change does come hard, but a mom’s job is to stand strong. The kids may complain for awhile, but soon they will have forgotten the old ways. And remember, the changes are not just to give them good fuel for the day, but to help them learn to make good choices for the rest of their lives!

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Food in a New Light

I had the most interesting encounter last weekend, that gave me a strange sense of . . . I don’t know what. Amazement I guess, at how diverse our world is.

I was volunteering in the hospitality room at my daughter’s swim club meet, working with a couple other moms. One is Chinese, studying neuro-science in the US for the last 18 months. I was about to discover that she primarily feeds her family traditional Chinese food, and thus has not experienced a wide range of American cuisine. Whatever American cuisine is, I would not have been able to define before the experience that was about to unfold.

As the breakfast tacos were brought in, her eyes widened.

“Are these American breakfast food?” she asked.

Being the food lover and informal educator that I am, I found myself explaining the ins and outs of breakfast in Texas. How tortillas are a Mexican staple, how salsa is made from tomatoes, and how chorizo is a spicy Mexican sausage, while bacon is more a result of the American influence. My new friend quizzed me until she got the words right, and listened to my explanations with rapt attention. I actually still don’t know where scrambled eggs fall in terms of taco authenticity. But I sure felt smart, in addition to satisfied at having been able to expand her horizons.

An hour later, we found several boxes of kolaches waiting to be put out. The eyes widened, the questions began again. This time I felt less like an expert, so I in turn began quizzing random coaches and volunteers as they came into the room.

“How traditional are these kolaches, and is the Czech influence that introduced them common to only this area, or all of Texas?” I found myself asking one willing pontificator.

Huan and I then both learned that while there is one town considered the heart of the Czech population around here, the influence extends throughout most of East Texas. We also learned that traditional kolaches are the jelly filled dough variety, while the sausage or bacon filled ones are once again the result of American influence. However, around here, people tend to refer to the meat buns as kolaches, and the jelly filled ones as danishes. I did not even know that! All I know is that I approve of kolaches!

The thrill of watching someone discover regional food within the confines of that humble hospitality room did not end there. I was able to talk my new friend through making coffee in the gigantic coffee pot, which she professed to like much better than when she had tried to make it at home.

She pointed to my piles of carrots and cut celery next to the bowl of ranch dressing, and asked what we call these when presented this way. I was indeed over-scholarly enough to teach her the word “crudite” but then gave the caveat that around here no one would know what she meant unless she said “cut-up veggies.”

When the local deli dropped off platters of sandwiches for lunch, we concluded together that this was probably something descended from European cuisine. But again, American influence had probably added the pickles and chips.

But oh, the joy of watching this culturally Chinese visitor witness the unveiling of the brownie cake . . . that was the best moment of all. It was nothing special, just a giant brownie packed in a cardboard box, probably purchased from Sam’s Club. I saw a stack of three of them and began to open one in order to cut it up for the impending lunch crowd.

Again, her eyes grew wide.

“Is that cake? Or a cookie?” she breathed. “I have discovered in USA that I like cheese, and chocolate.”

Now, a pregnant momma needs very little coercion to discuss the wonders of chocolate. I joyfully took it upon myself to explain how a brownie isn’t quite as fluffy as a cake, but more like a cake than a cookie. I even freely offered my opinion that this is one of the better ways to enjoy chocolate.

I did not, however, further explain how I grew up eating something called Texas Sheet Cake, only to move to Texas and find out that they have never heard of such a thing; they only have brownies here. Perhaps she had already had enough information for one day!

As I took my leave of my shift in the hospitality room, I made sure my new friend had taken a brownie to try. Her mouth was full, but her eyes and smiling face were all the confirmation I needed.

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